PARKERSBURG - Elimination is an evil word that several area school basketball programs don't want to consider for tonight's playoff games.
Arrive early to get a parking space at Parkersburg Catholic High School as Williamstown (17-6) and Parkersburg Catholic (13-8) clash for the third time this season in a Class A, Region IV, Section 1 semifinal. The Crusaders have won the first two games by a total of five points.
"In Class A, you would be hard-pressed to find a better rivalry," Williamstown coach Scott Sauro said. "I know you have Parkersburg South and Parkersburg, and you look at other great rivalries in other classes throughout the state - there is going to be a lot of energy.
"Neither coach has to talk to their kids about effort. I know Parkersburg Catholic has beat us twice. They have a really good team, but in a rivalry game, you never know what is going to happen."
Neither team has been at full strength for their two previous meetings along with tonight's contest.
Williamstown's Josh Palmer was recovering from a broken arm when the Crusaders claimed a 59-55 win on Jan. 10. Three weeks later, Parkersburg Catholic was a man down because of Jake Ullman's broken vertebrae when teammate Payton Sturm's last-second 3-pointer defeated the Yellowjackets 52-51.
Tonight, Williamstown will be without one of its starters after Chandler Weber suffered a severe ankle injury nearly two weeks ago.
"Losing Chandler Weber will be very difficult for them," PCHS coach Rob Strcula said. "They lose another big body and a good defender. But they don't drop off with Josh Palmer who is just as much a threat shooting the ball and handling the ball like Weber."
Regardless of what transpires, Williamstown has made a dramatic improvement from last season when it won just seven games during the regular-season.
"If you look at Parkersburg Catholic's body of work over the past seasons, they have a very good team," Sauro said. "But we've made leaps and bounds from last season. The kids have put in a lot of work to make themselves better and improve."
The Crusaders won't dazzle anyone with their current record, but that was by design as they played the likes of Charleston Catholic, Notre Dame and Wheeling Central.
They also suffered two losses to Gilmer County, which hosts Wirt County in the other Region IV, Section 1 semifinal.
"When we set up the schedule, we knew it would be a difficult one," Strcula said.
Seating at Parkersburg Catholic High School will be at a premium.
"In terms of atmosphere, the fan base for both schools will be awesome," Strcula said. "It will be a lot like the last two games, only more is at stake."